The rains arrived mid-March, triggering celebrations and hope in the region, where rains have failed for five seasons in a row. Here, the worst drought in 40 years, according to the United Nations, has triggered acute food and water shortages, and snuffed out animal pastures.

“We thank God that our prayers for the rains have been answered. We are looking at this with a lot of hope. The vegetation will grow again, there will be water, and, if the rains continue, we will plant crops and get a good harvest,” said Anglican Bishop Daniel Qampicha Wario of Marsabit Diocese.

“For now, there is no food for the people until June when the crops will have matured. The rains bring hope for a harvest; there is water, but there is no food for the people.”

Bishop Johnes Kutuk Ole Meliyio of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church—in a philosophical observation—said when rain comes, there is hope in people’s hearts, relief in their minds and hearts, and the earth appreciates, changing immediately.

“It’s a bit calm and cool, and it’s becoming greenish. For me, that is very important. With the rains, even if the people do not have food, they have hope. After two to three weeks, we hope there will be some greens in the farms, but we continue giving people food,” said the bishop, adding that the region will need relief food for three months when they hope there will be a harvest.

The drought is affecting regions in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. As of March 2023, at least 22 million people were in need of humanitarian food assistance due to failed crops, animal deaths, and displacement.

UNICEF estimated that 4.4 million people in Kenya were facing acute food insecurity by February this year. Some of the hardest hit regions in the north, northeastern, and part of the east and southeastern regions are now receiving some rains.

But Alex Mwaura, the Kenya Country director of Food for the Hungry said while the rains bring a sense of relief for drought-stricken communities, the situation was far from normal.

“The ongoing floods are destroying and impacting livestock which are being swept away,” said Mwaura, whose Christian humanitarian organization works to end poverty through development programs, relief, and advocacy. “The depleted water sources…will not immediately replenish after five consecutive failed rain seasons. For now, the focus will be to fix the infrastructure damage caused by the floods.”

He anticipated that the situation on the ground will improve if the rain falls consecutively for the next few months, without causing floods and damaging infrastructure.

“Currently, Food for the Hungry is preparing to conduct a rapid needs assessment to determine the extent of the damage caused by floods and thereafter intervene to reduce suffering among affected households and communities,” said Mwaura.

According to the official, Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority has indicated the loss of over 2 million livestock, meaning many pastoralists lost their primary livelihoods.

“Even with the rains and interventions from other stakeholders, it will take time for pastoralist households to rebuild herds and restore livelihoods,” said Mwaura.